Stealing time, dealing the cards

"Why put off till tomorrow that which can be achieved today?" Our parents were wise to give us such advice - but in usual rebellious fashion, "why should we listen to our parents?". How many of you have occasionally (or frequently) been dealt the card of procrastination, or even sometimes used it to your advantage – “sorry, I can’t do that today, I’m washing my hair"; "I’m just too busy"; "it will have to wait till tomorrow”. Yet tomorrow never comes; there is every excuse in the world not to get things done, and at the same time every reason to crack on and do it, so why don’t we stop torturing ourselves and get the jobs done?

Procrastination may occur regularly among clients seeking coaching, often disguised as “I just haven’t got round to it yet”. One of the ways to overcome this is to find out what your leading motivation is, and subsequently determine your most effective way to get things done. In a coaching conversation, you can look at your values, or what is most important for you to be happy in your life - e.g. creativity, inspiration, love, success. If you align your goals with your values then it is far more likely that you will be motivated to achieve them because they are rooted in what is most important in your life.

In addition to this, within NLP we have a term called “Toward” or “Away from” when referring to what motivates us:

  • Towards Motivation: here we emphasise or focus more on the benefits of doing something – to the feelings/values which appeal to us in this context and which we want to ‘move towards’. We are paying attention to the pleasant feelings/values which we will experience as a result of taking action; feelings such as achievement, success, enjoyment, status, and so on. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘carrots’ approach to motivation.

e.g Client A is motivated to get a piece of work done because it means he will be able to enjoy the weekend with his family.

  • Away From Motivation: here we emphasise or focus more on the consequences of not doing something which needs doing. We are paying attention to the feelings/values we may experience if we do not take action – and which we want to ‘move away from’. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘stick’ approach to motivation.

e.g Client B is motivated to get a piece of work done because if he doesn’t he won’t be able to spend the weekend with his children and they will be upset.

It is important to note that neither of the above are better/worse, but are useful to know with regards to procrastination. Someone with a "Towards" motivation may procrastinate on something in which they can’t see the benefits, or they may procrastinate in favour of doing something more beneficial e.g. spending time with family. Someone with an "Away from" motivation may procrastinate on something with no visible consequences, or procrastinate on one thing because the consequences of not doing another thing are greater. If you look at weight loss as an example, this is why clubs such as Slimming World are successful – they appeal to "Towards" motivation by helping you feel good about losing weight and how wonderful you will look when you are slimmer, while at the same time the process of being accountable for attending a weigh-in and the fear of recording that you have put on weight appeals to the "Away from" motivation.

7 Tips for Procrastination

  • Identify if you are putting things off unnecessarily, and what it is you are putting off.
  • look at your values and what is truly important to you.
  • Using the above, decide if the things you are putting off actually need to be dealt with and by when.
  • Look at whether you are "Towards" motivation or "Away from" motivation.
  • Frame your goal as “towards” or “away from” i.e. for Towards: what benefits will achieving this goal bring you? For Away from: what consequences will happen if you don’t achieve this goal.
  • Enlist help with your goals, whether this is deciding on a reward when you achieve your goal or asking for someone to help you stay on target and reporting your progress to them.
  • Identify the first smallest step you can take towards achieving your goal.

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Written by Alison Leigh Sydenham

Aleigh is passionate about inspiring others to get the best from life by using Life Coaching and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques. She has a Masters in Personnel and Development, is a qualified, IIC Accredited Coach and NLP Practitioner and a Chartered member of the CIPD. As a Coach, she utilises a combination of Coaching, NLP and Human Resources techniques to empower and support her … Read more

Written by Alison Leigh Sydenham

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